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Men in black

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An artistic depiction of a man in black.

In popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, men in black (MIB) are government agents dressed in black suits, who question, interrogate, harass, threaten, allegedly memory-wipe or sometimes even assassinate unidentified flying object (UFO) witnesses to keep them silent about what they have seen. The term is also frequently used to describe mysterious men working for unknown organizations, as well as various branches of government allegedly tasked with protecting secrets or performing other strange activities.

The term is generic, as it is used for any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting.[1] Several alleged encounters with the men in black have been reported by UFO researchers and enthusiasts. The "MIB" supposedly appeared throughout different moments in history.

Stories about men in black inspired the science fiction comedy franchise Men in Black, and an album by the Stranglers.


Folklorist James R. Lewis compares accounts of men in black with tales of people encountering Lucifer, and speculates that they can be considered a kind of "psychological trauma".[2]


Men in black feature prominently in ufology, UFO folklore, and fan fiction. In the 1950s and 1960s, ufologists adopted a conspiratorial mindset and began fearing they would be subject to organized intimidation in retaliation for discovering "the truth of the UFOs."[3]

In 1947, Harold Dahl claimed a man in a dark suit warned him not to discuss his alleged UFO sighting on Maury Island. In the mid-1950s, ufologist Albert K. Bender claimed he was visited by men in dark suits who threatened and warned him not to continue investigating UFOs. He maintained that the men were secret government agents tasked with suppressing evidence of UFOs. Ufologist John Keel claimed to have had encounters with MIB and referred to them as "demonic supernaturals" with "dark skin and/or 'exotic' facial features." According to ufologist Jerome Clark, reports of men in black represent "experiences" that "don't seem to have occurred in the world of consensus reality."[4]

Historian Aaron Gulyas wrote, "During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, UFO conspiracy theorists would incorporate the MIB into their increasingly complex and paranoid visions."[3]

Keel has argued that some MIB encounters could be explained as entirely mundane events perpetuated through folklore. In his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, he describes a late-night outing in 1967, where he himself was taken for an MIB while searching for a phone to call a tow truck.[5]

In his article "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker," John C. Sherwood claims that, in the late 1960s, at age 18, he cooperated when Gray Barker urged him to develop a hoax—which Barker subsequently published—about what Barker called "blackmen", three mysterious UFO inhabitants who silenced Sherwood's pseudonymous identity, "Dr. Richard H. Pratt."[6]

In popular media[edit]

The 1976 Blue Öyster Cult song "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" contains the line: "Three men in black said, 'Don't report this.'" Their 1983 song "Take Me Away", about the singer's desire to leave Earth with "good guy" aliens, has the line: "The men in black, their lips are sealed."[7]

In 1979, British punk rock and new wave rock band the Stranglers recorded a song entitled "Meninblack" for their album The Raven, released that year. In 1981, their concept album The Gospel According to the Meninblack featured alien visitations to Earth.[8]

James T. Flocker's 1979 film The Alien Encounters included Men in Black who harass a UFO investigator portrayed by Augie Tribach.[9]

The 1984 film The Brother from Another Planet features two Men in Black who try to capture the alien hero. One is played by the film's director, John Sayles.[10]

The 1997 science-fiction film Men In Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, was loosely based on The Men in Black comic book series created by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers.[11] Cunningham got the idea for the comic when he and a friend saw a black van on the street and his friend joked about government "men in black".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO's from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. 317–18.
  2. ^ James R. Lewis (9 March 1995). The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds. SUNY Press. pp. 218–. ISBN 978-0-7914-2330-1. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Aaron John Gulyas (25 January 2016). Conspiracy Theories: The Roots, Themes and Propagation of Paranoid Political and Cultural Narratives. McFarland & Company. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-4766-2349-8.
  4. ^ Harris, Aisha (23 May 2012). "Do UFO Hunters Still Report "Men in Black" Sightings?". Slate. Slate.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. ^ John Alva Keel, The Mothman Prophecies, Tor, 2002. Chapter 1: "Beelzebub Visits West Virginia".
  6. ^ Sherwood, John C. "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2011-05-12. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
  7. ^ "ShieldSquare Captcha".
  8. ^ Twomey, Chris (1992). The Stranglers - The Men They Love To Hate. EMI Records Ltd. pp. 102–104.
  9. ^ Godzilla, Glitter. "The Alien Encounters". Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  10. ^ Vincent Canby (September 14, 1984). "Sayles's Brother". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  11. ^ David Hughes (2003). Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books. pp. 123–129. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6.
  12. ^ "Metamorphosis of 'Men in Black'", Men in Black Blu-Ray

Further reading[edit]